Illinois waterfowl seasons set

July 30, 2009 at 11:22 AM

SPRINGFIELD – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regulations Committee, this week, approved Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) recommendations for 60-day duck seasons in each of the state’s three waterfowl hunting zones, along with Canada goose hunting seasons of 85 days in the North and Central zones and 66 days in the South Zone for the 2009-2010 waterfowl season. 

The Illinois seasons, based on a five-year plan for waterfowl hunting in the state that was implemented beginning in 2006, include opening the regular duck and Canada goose seasons on Oct. 17 in the North Zone and Oct. 31 in the Central Zone.

The duck and Canada goose seasons will open on Nov. 14 in the South Zone. 

The state’s regulations, which were reviewed by the IDNR Natural Resources Advisory Board, are subject to final formal approval by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) later this summer. 

The USFWS Adaptive Harvest Management Report selected a 60-day duck season with a daily bag limit of six ducks not to include more than four mallards (two of which can be hens), three wood ducks, two redheads, two scaup (entire 60-day season this year), one canvasback (full 60-day season this year), one black duck, and one pintail (full 60-day season this year).  The duck breeding population in the midcontinent area of North America of 42 million ducks was the fourth highest recorded since 1955. 

In addition to the dates for the regular waterfowl hunting seasons this fall, the IDNR also announced regulations for teal hunting and early Canada goose hunting in September. 

The early-season goose hunt is scheduled for Sept. 1-15, while the teal season is Sept. 5-20.

Preliminary results of the 2008 Illinois Waterfowl Hunter Survey, a random survey of approximately 5,000 waterfowl hunters, indicate that 58 percent of hunters in the North Zone and 60 percent of hunters in the Central Zone felt last year’s duck season dates were about right.  In the South Zone, 43 percent of hunters believed last year’s duck season dates were about right when the season opened on Thanksgiving Day.  The survey indicated that 50 percent of South Zone hunters prefer that the season start on Nov. 14 or earlier, compared with 43 percent who want the season to start on Nov. 26. 
IDNR is recommending the earlier start to the season in the South Zone after four consecutive years of later starts.  Nearly two-thirds of South Zone hunters surveyed object to the season opening the same weekend as the first firearm deer season (the first weekend of firearm deer hunting this fall will be Nov. 20-22). 

The 2009-2010 regular Canada goose seasons include a continuous 85-day season in the North Zone (Oct. 17-Jan. 9), a split 85-day season in the Central Zone (Oct. 31-Nov. 15 and Nov. 24-Jan. 31), and a split 66-day season in the South Zone
(Nov. 14-15 and Nov. 29-Jan. 31).

The Illinois snow goose seasons for 2009-2010 will open on the same dates as the regular waterfowl seasons and run continuously through the end of each zone’s regular Canada goose season.  The Conservation Order snow goose hunting seasons will begin the day after the regular Canada goose season ends in each zone and continue through next Mar. 31.
The September 2009 Canada goose season (Sept. 1-15) includes a daily bag limit of five geese in the Northeast, North and Central zones and two geese per day in the South Zone (possession limits are twice the daily bag limit). 

Illinois’ 16-day teal hunting season will be Sept. 5-20, with a daily limit of four teal (possession limit of eight).  Federal rules allow for a 16-day teal season when the blue-winged teal breeding population is more than 4.7 million. 

The Illinois 2009-2010 waterfowl hunting seasons are outlined below.  Final approval by the USFWS is expected in September.

                      2009                   2008
Early Canada Geese         Sept. 1 - Sept. 15         Sept. 1 - Sept. 15
Teal                   Sept. 5 - Sept. 20         Sept. 6 - Sept. 21
                      2009-2010               2008-2009
Youth Waterfowl Hunt   Oct. 10 - Oct 11           Oct. 11 - Oct. 12
Ducks                   Oct. 17 - Dec. 15           Oct. 18 - Dec. 16
Canada Geese         Oct. 17 - Jan. 9           Oct. 18 - Jan. 10
Snow Geese               Oct. 17 - Jan. 9           Oct. 18 - Jan. 10
White-fronted Geese         Oct. 30 - Jan. 9           Oct. 31- Jan. 10

                      2009-2010               2008-2009
Youth Waterfowl Hunt   Oct. 24 - Oct. 25           Oct. 18 - Oct. 19            
Ducks                   Oct. 31 - Dec. 29           Oct. 25 - Dec. 23
Canada Geese         Oct. 31 - Nov. 15 &        Oct. 25 - Nov. 9 &         
Nov. 24 - Jan. 31           Nov. 24 - Jan. 31
Snow Geese               Oct. 31 - Jan. 31           Oct. 25 - Jan. 31
White-fronted Geese         Nov. 21 - Jan. 31           Nov. 21 - Jan. 31
                      2009-2010               2008-2009
Youth Waterfowl Hunt   Oct. 31 - Nov. 1           Nov. 15 - Nov. 16
Ducks                   Nov. 14 - Jan. 12           Nov. 27 - Jan. 25
Canada Geese         Nov. 14 - Nov. 15 &        Nov. 27 - Jan. 31
Nov. 29 - Jan. 31                    
Snow Geese               Nov. 14 - Jan. 31           Nov. 27 - Jan. 31
White-fronted Geese         Nov. 14-15 &              Nov. 27 - Jan. 31
                      Nov. 29 - Jan. 31


      Species         Season Dates           Duration             Bag         Possession

Teal   Sept. 5 -20
16 days
Canada Goose  
Sept. 1-15    
15 days 5 - Northeast, North&Central Zones
2 - South Zone 10 - Northeast, North&Central Zones
4 - South Zone
The IDNR Division of Wildlife Resources prepared a summary of relevant waterfowl population information outlined below.  For more information on Illinois waterfowl seasons, check the 2009-2010 Illinois Digest of Waterfowl Hunting Regulations available in September.

Surveys in the traditional duck breeding areas of the northern U.S. and Canada counted 42 million ducks, compared with 37.2 million last year.  This is 13 percent higher than last year and 25 percent above the long-term average (1955-2008).  Only 1956, 1997, and 1999 had higher duck breeding populations.
Mallards – 8.5 million, a 10 percent increase compared with last year and 13 percent above the long-term average (highest count since 2000); the mallard fall flight index is 10.3 million compared with 9.2 million last year.  There will be 1.8 million young mallards this season, compared with 1.3 million last year.
Green-winged teal – 3.4 million, similar to last year and 79 percent above the long-term average (record population since 1955);
Blue-winged teal (used to set teal regulations) – 7.4 million, similar to last year and 60 percent above the long-term average (second highest count ever recorded); 16-day teal season is approved this year;
Pintails (species of concern) – 3.2 million, 23 percent above last year and 20 percent below the long-term average;
Canvasbacks (season was closed last year) – 0.7 million, 35 percent above last year and similar to the long-term average;
Scaup – 4.2 million, similar to last year and 18 percent below the long-term average, highest count since 1999;
Redheads – 1.04 million, the second highest breeding population recorded since 1955.

May Ponds
Total Ponds (U.S. and Canada) – 6.4 million, 45 percent above last year and 31 percent above the long-term average;
Canada Ponds (used to set duck regulations) – 3.6 million, 17 percent above last year and similar to the average;
U.S. Ponds – 2.9 million, 108 percent above last year and 87 percent above the long-term average, a record number of ponds since surveys in U.S. began in 1974.

Canada Geese
MVP Canada Geese – 581,232 total geese, 21 percent below the 2008 estimate of 626,358, but only three percent below the 1989-2008 average.
MVP breeding population – 239,631 compared with 305,191 last year.  This is 35 percent below the 1989-2008 average and is the lowest ever recorded.  A very late spring resulted in too much snow and ice during breeding season over most of the coast, which is where the highest nest densities occur.  Hunting for MVP geese will be more difficult because of the low number of young expected.  The MVP harvest regulations experiment calls for no change unless the breeding population falls below 225,000 so Illinois will keep the regular Canada goose season structure as was in place last year.
Illinois Giant Canada Geese - The 2009 survey produced a population estimate of 133,550, compared with 138,300 and 105,000 in 2008 and 2007, respectively.  Results of the 2009 survey indicate that the statewide population likely is somewhere between 96,750 and 170,350 geese.
Mississippi Flyway Giant Canada Goose Population – Biologists estimated the presence of 1,906,600 Mississippi Flyway giant Canada geese during the spring of 2009, one percent more than the revised 2008 estimate, and the second highest estimate on record.  In addition to the 51 percent of Illinois’ goose harvest comprising MVP Canada geese, the harvest of giant Canada geese in Illinois is comprised of 23 percent giants from Illinois and 21 percent giants from other states and provinces (primarily Minnesota and Wisconsin).  The low productivity on the MVP breeding grounds should be offset somewhat by good numbers of young giant Canada geese in the flyway. 

Light Geese
The mid-continent population of light geese (snow, Ross’, and blue) was recorded at 2,753,000 last winter, which was 12 percent more than 2008.  Breeding conditions for light geese were poor over much of their breeding range due to a late spring with cold temperatures and above average snow cover.  However, most of the light geese harvested in Illinois come from Baffin Island, which had average weather conditions and this area may produce a near average number of young this spring.

Local Conditions
Although continental duck populations are in good shape, hunters should be aware that local food, water and weather can influence individual success more than the total number of ducks coming down the flyway.  Illinois has had an unusually wet spring and summer.  Many areas along the Illinois River and reservoirs such as Lake Shelbyville, Carlyle Lake, and Rend Lake may not get the high water off of shallow areas in time for crops or moist-soil plants to produce good food conditions for ducks.  If the weather cooperates and allows seed production for the rest of the summer and early fall, these areas may be in better shape.  But hunters need to watch local flooding conditions to get an idea of where food may or may not be plentiful enough to attract ducks this fall.